The Pentagon is denying claims by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that U.S. airstrikes killed two of its guardsmen in the Islamic State-held Iraqi city of Tikrit last week.
The Guard says on its news website, sepahnews.ir, that a U.S. strike killed two of its members on March 23 as they were supporting Iraqi forces trying to retake Tikrit.
But Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith tells VOA the timing makes that claim impossible.
“The coalition initiated airstrikes near Tikrit on March 25, which is two days after the alleged incident occurred, and no airstrikes were conducted in or near Tikrit on March 23.”
The Iranian claim comes as the coalition continues to bomb Islamic State targets in and around the militant-held city. The coalition said Monday the latest three airstrikes near Tikrit struck multiple Islamic State buildings and destroyed two of the group’s armored vehicles.
Gen. Lloyd Austin, who overseas U.S. operations in Iraq, told a Senate hearing Thursday that the withdrawal of Iranian-led Shi'ite militias had been a precondition for joining the fight for the city. He said no Shi'ite militias remain in Tikrit.
Smith could not confirm that all Shi'ite militias were out of Tikrit Monday, because she said some militias there are under Iraqi control rather than Iranian control. Under the U.S. precondition, those militiamen would still be allowed to fight for Tikrit.